Lydia Mordkovitch, RSNO, Neeme Jarvi - Taneyev: Suite de Concert; Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Russian Themes (2008)

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Lydia Mordkovitch, RSNO, Neeme Jarvi - Taneyev: Suite de Concert; Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Russian Themes (2008)

Sergei Taneyev: Suite de Concert; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Russian Themes (2008)
Lydia Mordkovitch, violin; Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Neeme Järvi

EAC | FLAC | Image (Cue&Log) ~ 268 Mb | Mp3 (CBR320) ~ 151 Mb | Scans included
Genre: Classical | Label: Chandos | # CHAN 10491 | Time: 01:04:52

Lydia Mordkovitch and the then Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi were a celebrated team in the 1980s, recording many notable Russian works, including the concertos by Khachaturian, Prokofiev and Shostakovich for Chandos, and winning a Gramophone Award. This ‘team’ has recently re-assembled to record little-known concertante works by Taneyev and Rimsky Korsakov. The unusual coupling of works by Taneyev and Rimsky-Korsakov, two great composer friends, neatly symbolises the era of the last decades of nineteenth-century Russia, with its great conservatories in Moscow and St Petersburg exerting enormous influence on the music of the country at the time.

This disc offers works for violin and orchestra from Russian contemporaries and friends Rimsky-Korsakov and Taneyev. Described here as ‘Violin Concertos’ the first score is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Fantasy on Russian Themes based on old Russian folk-tunes. Taneyev is represented by his Suite de Concert a work that inhabits the world of old European dance forms from the baroque period. These are both unfamiliar scores, yet melodic and rewarding, without making any claims to greatness. For further listening I have provided in the footnotes a list of several other lesser known scores by these composers.

I immediately noted the link that both Rimsky and Taneyev had been composition professors at their respective conservatories: the former at the St. Petersburg and Taneyev at Moscow. Stylistically very different in inclination the Moscow Conservatory was more associated with the music of the Austro-German tradition as opposed to the Russian nationalist school at St. Petersburg.

The first born of the two composers is Rimsky who is by far the better known; primarily for his famous symphonic suite Scheherazade, Op. 36 (1888) and also the popular Capriccio espagnol, Op. 34 (1887).

Rimsky started his career as a naval officer and went on to become Professor of Composition at St. Petersburg. He taught many pupils who went on to achieve great success as composers, notably: Anatoly Lyadov; Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov; Anton Arensky; Sergei Prokofiev; Alexander Gretchaninov; Igor Stravinsky, Ottorino Respighi and Alexander Glazunov.

Rimsky-Korsakov was the youngest of the circle of self trained amateur composers known as ‘The Five’ also known as ‘The Mighty Handful’ or ‘Balakirev's circle’. They met in the years 1856-1870 and promoted a Russian Nationalistic style. Commenced in 1861 Rimsky-Korsakov’s Symphony No. 1 in E flat minor, Op. 1 was completed and premiered at St. Petersburg in 1865. The composer surprised the audience by taking his ovation wearing his naval uniform. Although it was not the first symphony to be composed by a Russian the score is sometimes known as the “First Russian Symphony”; owing to its use of Russian folk song and oriental melodies. Rimsky-Korsakov revised and re-orchestrated the Symphony No. 1 in 1884.

Rimsky-Korsakov composed his three movement Fantasy on Russian Themes in 1887. It was written for Krasnokutsky the violin teacher at the Imperial Chapel where Rimsky was assistant to Balakirev, the Musical Director. Biographer Gerald Abraham wrote of the Violin Fantasy:

“Though the themes are attractive, their treatment is of slight interest, the orchestral part being very evidently written for the pupil’s orchestra of the Chapel.” (Rimsky-Korsakov: A Short Biography by Gerald Abraham, Duckworth, London, 1945, p. 80).

The opening movement is wild and fresh, punctuated with cadenza-like passages. Mordkovitch plays with great tenderness against a minimal orchestral accompaniment. The Lento section includes a long, languid and heartfelt theme. From point 2:03 Rimsky-Korsakov employs the highest violin registers. Like a breath of fresh air the Finale bursts onto the scene blowing away any cobwebs with a brisk gypsy-dance. A cadenza of considerable difficulty is played with assurance by Mordkovitch and conveys an unusually warm and gentle atmosphere.

It was in 1866 that Sergey Taneyev entered the Moscow Conservatory. He became a composition student of Tchaikovsky and also received piano tuition from Nikolay Rubinstein. He graduated with a gold medal for performance and composition. As a virtuoso Taneyev was entrusted by Tchaikovsky with giving the premières of virtually all his scores for piano and orchestra. Taneyev was the only composer within his circle from whom Tchaikovsky sought critical appraisals on his works. Later in his career in 1881 Taneyev returned to the Moscow Conservatory to undertake teaching duties and in 1885 was appointed as Conservatory Director. Taneyev’s pupils include several famous names namely: Reinhold Glière; Sergei Rachmaninov and Alexander Scriabin.

Sadly Taneyev’s music has been consigned to the shadows for many years. His influence on the development of Russian music, especially his success as a composition teacher, is often overlooked. Thankfully Taneyev’s melodic and approachable music is rapidly gaining a large group of enthusiasts. In an interview for The Independent newspaper in 2005 the eminent Russian pianist; conductor and composer Mikhail Pletnev expressed the opinion that Taneyev was,

“… the key figure in Russian musical history … He was the greatest polyphonist after Bach. And look who his pupils were: Rachmaninov and Scriabin, and Prokofiev who said he learned more about composing in one hour from Taneyev than from all his other tutors at the Moscow Conservatory.”

Today Taneyev is best remembered as the composer of four symphonies. His final work, the second cantata At the Reading of a Psalm (1914-15) completed just two years before the Russian Revolution, is receiving attention thanks to maestro Pletnev’s recording on Pentatone. Very active in the field of chamber music Taneyev composed a considerable number of scores in the genre. According to Grove Music Online there are nine string quartets (1874-1911), plus two incomplete quartets; two string quintets (1901 and 1904); a piano quartet (1906) and a piano quintet (1911).

His substantial forty-seven minute Suite de Concert was composed in 1908-9 in between the turmoil of the ‘Failed Russian Revolution of 1905’ and the ‘Bolshevik Revolution’ or ‘October Revolution’ of 1917.

Dedicated to his friend the renowned violinist Leopold Auer the score is a combination of several traditions of writing. The Prelude and Gavotte sections reflect the style of the Baroque suite with the closing Tarantella conceivably indicating the Gigue. The substantial and late-Romantic Fairy-tale section undoubtedly reminds one of Schumann or Brahms. One wonders if the theme and set of variations were influenced by Brahms’s Haydn Variations (1873) or Tchaikovsky’s Mozartiana, orchestral suite, Op. 61 (1887).

In the Prelude I enjoyed the exciting and extrovert opening section. It calls for and receives considerable virtuosity from soloist Lydia Mordkovitch. The overall sound-picture is one of brooding sultriness. From the scope of an eighteen century Gavotte the music develops a distinct late-Romantic feel. The Fairy-tale section, an Andantino, commences in a quite sinister, almost menacing mood. This is music evocative of a woodland scene at dusk with all sorts of extraordinary creatures revealing themselves. The main theme that Rimsky-Korsakov employs is attractive yet undemanding. The first variation is delightful, contrasting with the bold and assertive second variation and the elegant waltz third variation. Marked Fuga doppia the fourth variation consists of richly-textured writing. The lighter fifth variation feels bright and breezy. Variation six is a severe mazurka and I loved the heartfelt compassion of the final variation that closely resembles the original theme. The Finale of the score, a tarantella, provides predominantly foot-tapping excitement. The climax makes a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to this impressive work.

I found this to be a splendidly presented disc with Calum MacDonald’s essay in the booklet a model of authorship. I did notice that in the liner-notes and booklet Taneyev’s birth date is incorrectly given as 1889 not 1856.

Review by Michael Cookson, MusicWeb International

Prized pupil of both Tchaikovsky and Anton Rubinstein, Sergey Taneyev's output has not figured into modern concerto programs as often as it should. It should be noted that Taneyev was born in 1856, not 1889 as listed on the album; managing his vast oeuvre alongside his busy playing career would have been nearly impossible in only 26 years! This Chandos album prominently features a piece that is performed live rarely, if ever: the Suite de Concert for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 28. In it, Taneyev tips his hat to the many influences upon which his work draws. The form alone demonstrates his reverence for the Baroque, as do several of the dance movements taken directly from the Baroque suite, as well as his skilled use of counterpoint. But Taneyev was also a Romantic and occasionally drew from Russian folk idioms. All of these facets are combined in this underperformed jewel of the repertoire. The solo violin part is nothing short of a virtuoso tour de force that pleasingly incorporates moments of tenderness and sentimentality. Soloist Lydia Mordkovitch, alongside the Royal Scottish National Orchestra led by Neeme Järvi, offers a dazzling and pyrotechnic performance of Taneyev's expansive suite. Mordkovitch's playing is generally quite solid technically, although there are surprising moments in some of the slower moments where she seems to struggle to land large shifts. This album also includes Rimsky-Korsakov's Fantasy on Russian Themes. Rimsky-Korsakov, a contemporary of Taneyev, was largely self-taught and produces a much more rustic, folk-like atmosphere in his composition. Mordkovitch does an equally admirable job here of delivering a spirited, pleasantly nuanced performance. Sound quality and balance between soloist and orchestra are excellent throughout.

Review by Mike D. Brownell,

Lydia Mordkovitch, RSNO, Neeme Jarvi - Taneyev: Suite de Concert; Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Russian Themes (2008)

Lydia Mordkovitch, RSNO, Neeme Jarvi - Taneyev: Suite de Concert; Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Russian Themes (2008)


Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)

Fantasy on Russian Themes, Op.33:
01. Allegro moderato - (07:31)
02. Lento - (03:15)
03. Allegro animato (06:49)

Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev (1856-1915)

Suite de Concert, Op.28:
04. I. Prelude (07:52)
05. II. Gavotte (05:34)
06. III. Fairy-tale (09:51)
07. IV. Theme and Variations. Theme (01:34)
08. IV. Variation 1 (01:17)
09. IV. Variation 2 (01:41)
10. IV. Variation 3 (02:15)
11. IV. Variation 4 (01:56)
12. IV. Variation 5 (00:55)
13. IV. Variation 6 (01:36)
14. IV. Variazione finale e coda (04:51)
15. V. Tarantella (07:48)

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Lydia Mordkovitch, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi / Taneyev, Rimsky-Korsakov - Violin Concertos

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Analyzed: Lydia Mordkovitch, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Jдrvi / Taneyev, Rimsky-Korsakov - Violin Concertos

DR Peak RMS Duration Track
DR16 -3.94 dB -27.99 dB 7:31 01-Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Russian Themes, Op.33 - Allegro moderato -
DR12 -16.46 dB -36.16 dB 3:15 02-Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Russian Themes, Op.33 - Lento -
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DR15 -5.52 dB -26.28 dB 7:52 04-Taneyev: Suite de Concert, Op.28 - I. Prelude
DR15 -0.19 dB -21.95 dB 5:35 05-Taneyev: Suite de Concert, Op.28 - II. Gavotte
DR17 -2.02 dB -26.81 dB 9:52 06-Taneyev: Suite de Concert, Op.28 - III. Fairy-tale
DR12 -12.07 dB -31.50 dB 1:34 07-Taneyev: Suite de Concert, Op.28 - IV. Theme and Variations. Theme
DR13 -10.28 dB -27.43 dB 1:17 08-Taneyev: Suite de Concert, Op.28 - IV. Variation 1
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DR17 -0.25 dB -22.87 dB 7:49 15-Taneyev: Suite de Concert, Op.28 - V. Tarantella

Number of tracks: 15
Official DR value: DR14

Samplerate: 44100 Hz
Channels: 2
Bits per sample: 16
Bitrate: 570 kbps
Codec: FLAC

Lydia Mordkovitch, RSNO, Neeme Jarvi - Taneyev: Suite de Concert; Rimsky-Korsakov: Fantasy on Russian Themes (2008)

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